Chicken strips, milkshakes, Jeopardy, and scrabble... These are a few of their favorite things!
Amber and Ross and their amazing families were such a pleasure to get to know. Amber handled her nearly 24 hour long induction, like. a. champ. I was in awe of her strength, her stamina, and her grace under pressure. The same can be said of her husband Ross. He was a diligent support system for her the entire time. And their families, quite literally set up shop in the waiting room to be there for them at a moment's notice.
Some back story on a few of the images in the slide show:
The day they went in for the induction, Ross was rummaging through an old barber's bag to get a razor and shave. It was an old bag, one he hadn't used in quite some time. In it, he found two military pins that had belonged to his grandfather. This day, would've been his grandfather's 100th birthday. It was a sweet reminder of his presence in his absence on this most important day. Ross brought the pins to the hospital and we stepped out into the waiting room so he could show them to his grandmother, his late grandfather's wife. Her reaction was so precious and endearing. And to make Larkin's story even more special, the next day, she was actually born on her other great-grandfather, Bryenton's birthday.
It wouldn't be the last time his grandmother would nearly steal the show. Once the whole family had been let in to see Larkin after her delivery, they went to the waiting room and brought his grandmother, Margaret back to see her great-granddaughter. No one knew the name Amber and Ross had chosen for their precious girl, and as his grandmother laid eyes on the newest arrival they told her the baby was named after her, Margaret "Larkin". Her expression and elation literally brought tears to my eyes.
Parenthood suits these two very well... a little girl born surrounded by love from all directions. Their faith and love for the Lord will be with them every step of the way as they navigate this new journey!
'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take him at his word;
Just to rest upon his promise,
And to know, "Thus saith the Lord."
This is the first time I've photographed a client's engagement, wedding, and now birth of their first child. This couple is near and dear to me, and being able to be there to watch them become parents was inspiring.
Here are a couple of photos from their engagement and wedding:
I remember on their engagement shoot thinking, man, I've never seen two people look at each other like they do (ok, well outside of Wes and I of course). But seriously, the look in their eyes when they interact, quite literally oozes love. And then again on their wedding day... obvious, passionate love for one another. Then, with the birth of their daughter, true to form I watch them fall even more in love with each other. Those gazes of love, shown through with so much adoration for the other. They were made for each other, and they were born to be parents.
Ashtyn didn't exactly get the birth she had spent the last few months daydreaming about. She had been walking around 5cm dilated for a few days, and we all knew labor was coming soon. I had just gotten home from another client's birth who had delivered earlier in the day, when I got the call from Ashtyn that her water had broken. Given the fact that I knew she was already so far dilated, I made a point of quickly heading to the hospital. I believe I got the call around 10:36 and I was at the hospital by 10:45. I was corresponding with Matt, her husband, while I waited in the waiting room for them to be moved from triage to L&D. 10 minutes passed, which seemed like an eternity so I texted Matt again, he said they were "taking her back, baby is breech". Immediately I was ready to bust the doors down to get to Ashtyn, one to help calm her as I knew her head must've been spinning, and two because I knew how quickly the next few moments were going to go.
I was let back, immediately got into my scrubs, and by the time I had my camera on, Matt was getting in his scrubs and Ashtyn was being wheeled to the OR. She was in pain, in full blown labor, contractions every two minutes and a whirlwind of action going on around her. 11:04 Matt and I are let into the operating room, 11:08 Reese makes her grand entrance into this world... feet first, well butt first, but we don't want to embarrass her.
And in that instant, I watched them fall even more in love with each other... and with their daughter, which by the way they only found out the sex of their baby at delivery!
So far, all of my unpredicted c-section mommas have all had to take some time to process the "loss of the delivery they imagined", and Ashtyn was no exception. She had maybe 15-20 minutes to process what was happening, before she had a baby in her arms. That immediate happiness and the overflow of emotions right at delivery carry you through, but sometimes when the dust of the chaos settles, is when you finally have time to 'miss what wasn't'. So if you can relate, and have some encouraging words you would like to leave in the comments section below please do. This amazing woman is thriving in her new title as mommy, but maybe for the rainy days of doubt and the "what if's" that creep in when you're least expecting it.... I pray your comments will fall softly on her heart.
God is so good, and He always provides. I have no doubt that the Lord has carefully knitted this family together... their love and marriage is an inspiration to me, I pray Wes and I will always look at each other the way these two do!
Funny how life happens sometimes. I wasn't intended to shoot this birth. I was called in as a back up for a fellow birth photographer friend of mine in town. I had a client of mine walking around 5cm dilated ready to go any minute as well. I told my friend I would move heaven and earth to make sure Joanna was covered should she not be able to be there. Little did I know how difficult it was for me to get out there, or that my other client would go into labor later that evening. My wallet had be stolen the week before, in it my driver's license. I got the call from Joanna, that her water had broken and realized she was delivering on Post at Ft. Benning. Like a 10 pound hammer I realized I had no driver's license to get on Post! But I did have my passport. A long hour passed as I waited for my sitter to arrive. She was my silver lining to a hectic morning. We loaded my kids up, and she drove my mini-van on Post, and dropped me off at the hospital. That ladies and gentleman is what my amazing sitters and helpers do so I can be there for my clients! Thank you Lisa, for all the crazy calls you answer and for always stepping up for me and the kids!
Upon arriving to photograph Joanna's delivery, I truly felt under prepared. We had never sat down for a consult as I usually do with my clients. I had no idea what her medical history was, how she wanted to labor, etc. Her water had broken at home, and like the rock-star she is she drove herself to the hospital. So in between contractions at the hospital, we're having quick conversations about her desired labor. I'm getting briefed on her medical history... and without too much personal detail (as Joanna discusses in her own words below), I learn of the pain this amazing woman had endured. A previous botched procedure on her cervix had left her needing a cerclage, had her in immense pain, and left her with scar tissue on her cervix. The thought of pushing, and the pain that would follow were too much for her to bear and too much for me to as well. Not to mention her husband is currently deployed overseas. I wanted to crawl in the bed with her, wrap my arms around her and make it all go away.
Joanna was shaking, she was cold, her body was failing her, and the fear of the pain was nearly too much. It was just me and her in the room for a good hour, nurses would quietly come and go, but for the most part is was just us. In awe, I watched her and her body go into auto-pilot. She laid there nearly silent, breathing, and focused.... for an hour. It was the most amazing, inspiring thing I've yet to witness as a birth photographer. Her body fully relaxed, and did what it needed to do. The midwife came in, checked her and told her it was time. I don't think Joanna could believe it. There was relief, the finish line of this painful journey was almost here. But for a quick moment the fear of pushing crept back in, I'm talking like for a nan0second. Then Joanna was right back into "beast mode", 9 minutes of pushing, and sweet, perfect, precious Wren came roaring into this world. And in a another nanosecond, it was all worth it.
I am beyond grateful I was called to backup for this birth. I an beyond blessed in witnessing a strength that I think will be hard to beat, and I am beyond thankful for the friendship of Joanna. She will never fully understand what an inspiration her history, her delivery, and her beauty in weakness have been to me.
In her own words, here is Joanna's story of her delivery:
"Love. That's what is going to happen." Those were the words my friend wrote to me after I messaged her to say I was pregnant and I had no idea what was going to happen. Those were the words I clung to daily, sometimes hourly, as I navigated through the complicated, emotional, painful and unexpected pregnancy of my fifth child. Through exposure to medication that almost always causes birth defects and worse, antibodies that can cause fetal heart defects and worse, countless doctors appointments, weekly ultrasounds, consultations with specialists, fear, uncertainty and worry, I held onto those words: "Love. Thats what is going to happen." That was my faith, my glimmer of hope.
My body had already failed me so many times before, I could not let it fail me this time. And then my body started to fail me. I couldn't walk without the arthritis in my hips burning deep in my pelvis. My autoimmune disorders flared in full force. Migraines, fatigue, high blood pressure, extreme food allergies, the list goes on. My hormone levels were too low, my cervix was too weak. Three and a half years prior I had a surgery to remove pre-cancerous cells from my cervix; a surgery that, due to a medical mistake, would leave me with 3rd degree internal chemical burns, and the inability to ever sustain a pregnancy without the placement of a cerclage. A cerclage was placed at 19 weeks in order to save the sweet life inside of me.
I was in pain, constantly. And constantly clinging to the hope, trying desperately to have faith, that Love was going to happen. And Love did happen. On a chilly day in January, Love came in a little 6 pound, 11 ounce form of perfection. It wasn't easy. Her labor was, by far, the most intense and painful I had experienced. There was a long, seemingly endless, moment where the pain was more than I could bear. The cerclage that had kept my sweet baby safe inside of me and allowed me to carry her to term, had also left me with thick scar tissue, which had to be broken for her to be born. I have lived in pain for five straight years, I birthed twins naturally, but nothing could have prepared me for what it would feel like when that barrier was released. The physical pain, emotional stress, uncertainty, fear, my previous experiences and traumas all came bubbling up at once, in full force. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move. I couldn't feel my arms or legs. Yet, in that moment, I felt Love. Love from perfect strangers, people I had never met, who held me and listened as I poured my heart out, trying to process and cope all at the same time.
Perfect strangers who stayed by my side and supported me through the intensity, and allowed me to slip deep inside myself, to ride out the rest of the labor. I don't remember much after that long moment. What seemed like 5 minutes ended up being over an hour, and I awoke to my angel in the form of a midwife telling me it was time for my sweet baby to be born. I may have cussed and yelled, I don't know, but soon my baby girl entered the world, face up, fierce, feisty, and perfect.
As I cut her cord, separating her body from mine, I cut away all of that worry and fear. She was here. She was ok. I was ok. We did it. Not only did that moment symbolize the end of this pregnancy, but it was also a symbol on a much larger scale. One of strength, independence, new life, and a restart. This baby is my reset button and has saved me in so many ways. I am at peace. I feel Love. So much Love. She has changed me. I'm broken in the best way. Filled with a newfound strength and Love for my little family. Wanting more. Stopping and just being. I was terrified to have her, but now I can't imagine life any other way. Love. That is what happened."
I hope you find courage, and strength in her story. I am forever grateful for the bravery of my clients to be so transparent with their journeys, with their willingness to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. As well as the blessing of sharing their triumphs and miracles. I pray this finds you well, and lifts your spirits in just the right way!
Apparently Joanna's children only know how to make dramatic entrances into this world, read about her amazing vaginal delivery of her twins in the operating room, just avoiding a c-section. You can find her story over at Birth Without Fear, by clicking HERE.
(p.s. This is also the first time I've really delved into incorporating video into my birth stories, so forgive my infancy of skill level... I'm in love with video and most definitely intend on honing this new craft).
What better location to shoot this new beginning, than in their new home. At the time the house wasn't even complete, no carpet, stickers still on windows, and contractors staining overhead beams while listening to Metallica. New house, new baby, new beginnings...
From high school, college, marriage, and EACH of their children... I have continually been blessed by this family and their friendship through the years. Their battles with fertility, their miracle that is their first born and her testimony of life starting at a fragile 26 weeks, to the second round battle to conceive their second born, a son, both pregnancies happening on their own, by the grace of God after failed fertility treatments, and most recently years on the adoption roller coaster to bring this guy into their lives. This family's testimony, their continual strength and faith in the Lord to provide, they live it you guys. They are the REAL DEAL. To have had the honor of capturing the earliest days with all 3 of their children gives me goose-bumps, and I truly understand what an honor and privilege this task has been through the years.
My church friends, this family included, are the foundations of my business. I NEVER would be where I am today if it weren't for them, for them trusting me in the early years, for them to keep coming back to me time and time again, for them graciously letting me learn and try knew skills on them, and for them having endless patience on my turn around times due to free/discounted sessions. This may be a post for the Jones family, but I know my community group/small group friends will read this and I want to take this chance to thank you guys for all of your support with my photography. I owe so much of me standing here today, doing what I love, giving God all the glory, because of you all. Thank you for believing in me and trusting me with your families' memories!
Brandon and Katherine, you are an inspiration, I know that Wes and I "want to be like you guys when we grow up!"
I'm so glad Micah is here, the Lord has blessed him beyond measure bringing him into your home, into your arms, into your heart... and with all of your children I know this verse to be true:
"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it" - Proverbs 22:6